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noun, plural tat·toos.
  1. the act or practice of marking the skin with indelible patterns, pictures, legends, etc., by making punctures in it and inserting pigments.
  2. a pattern, picture, legend, etc., so made.
verb (used with object), tat·tooed, tat·too·ing.
  1. to mark (the skin) with tattoos.
  2. to put (tattoos) on the skin.

Origin of tattoo2

1760–70; < Marquesan tatu; replacing tattow < Tahitian tatau
Related formstat·too·er, tat·too·ist, nounun·tat·tooed, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for tattooer

Historical Examples

  • Page 188Then the tattooer pricks the skin through the design.

    The Bontoc Igorot

    Albert Ernest Jenks

  • But let us suppose that you, my dear sir, are one of those seventy thousand subscribers and are by profession a tattooer.

    Hints to Pilgrims

    Charles Stephen Brooks

  • He was a little man, with a high massive head, and remarkably high square forehead, on which the tattooer had exhausted his art.

    Old New Zealand

    Earl of Pembroke.

  • In one place I found a tattooer working on a boy; and he asked to tattoo me, but to his great disappointment, I refused.

  • When the tattooer finished his work he turned to his friend, and said: “Now you tattoo me beautifully, too.”

    The Bontoc Igorot

    Albert Ernest Jenks

British Dictionary definitions for tattooer


noun plural -toos
  1. (formerly) a signal by drum or bugle ordering the military to return to their quarters
  2. a military display or pageant, usually at night
  3. any similar beating on a drum, etc

Word Origin

C17: from Dutch taptoe, from the command tap toe! turn off the taps! from tap tap of a barrel + toe to shut


verb -toos, -tooing or -tooed
  1. to make (pictures or designs) on (the skin) by pricking and staining with indelible colours
noun plural -toos
  1. a design made by this process
  2. the practice of tattooing
Derived Formstattooer or tattooist, noun

Word Origin

C18: from Tahitian tatau
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for tattooer



"signal," 1680s, "signal calling soldiers or sailors to quarters at night," earlier tap-to (1644, in order of Col. Hutchinson to garrison of Nottingham), from Dutch taptoe, from tap "faucet of a cask" (see tap (n.1)) + toe "shut." So called because police used to visit taverns in the evening to shut off the taps of casks. Transferred sense of "drumbeat" is recorded from 1755. Hence, Devil's tattoo "action of idly drumming fingers in irritation or impatience" (1803).



"pigment design in skin," 1769 (noun and verb, both first attested in writing of Capt. Cook), from a Polynesian noun (e.g. Tahitian and Samoan tatau, Marquesan tatu "puncture, mark made on skin").



"mark the skin with pigment," 1769; see tattoo (n.2). Related: Tattooed; tattooing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

tattooer in Medicine


n. pl. tat•toos
  1. A permanent mark or design made on the skin by a process of pricking and ingraining an indelible pigment or by raising scars.
  1. To mark the skin with a tattoo.
  2. To form a tattoo on the skin.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.